The NHL is more than a week into its free agency period, and what began as a particularly shallow class has been whittled down even further after the July 1 rush and Minnesota's big splash, landing both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter on July 4.
But there is still one name drawing plenty of attention, even if Shane Doan would just as soon stay out of the free agent spotlight.
He'd like nothing better than to stay with the only franchise he's ever played for. That franchise has moved once in his tenure, abandoning Winnipeg for Phoenix after his rookie campaign in 1995-96, and may soon be on the move again after a protracted struggle to find an owner willing to keep the team in the desert.
Doan was waiting until Monday to see if there would be any more clarity to that ownership mess before weighing offers from other clubs. Monday was the deadline to turn in signatures for a referendum to put the city of Glendale's proposed lease agreement with potential owner Greg Jamison up for a vote, though organizers are pushing for an extension until next Monday.
If the Coyotes stay in Arizona, Doan will be staying as well. There's no doubt that an agreement could be quickly reached if the franchise's future in Glendale was secure. But there's plenty of uncertainty about that, and if he's going to be forced to move, he'd rather choose his own destination in free agency.
He'll have no shortage of suitors, with 11 teams already expressing interest in obtaining his services according to the Arizona Republic.
If Doan does leave the desert, there are plenty of logical places for him to close out his career. He'd have his pick of contenders, with reigning champion Los Angeles offering the chance to stay closest to his adopted home in Phoenix.
Doan is an Alberta native, but Calgary lacks cap space and Edmonton is hardly a contender despite its collection of potential young stars. Doan does have ties to British Columbia as well though, having played for Kamloops in the Western Hockey League in his junior days and now being a part-owner of that Blazers franchise. His wife is also from Kamloops, making a return to British Columbia with a Canucks a possibility.
That possibility was confirmed on Monday when Doan's agent Terry Bross told CKWX AM-1130 in Vancouver that the Canucks "are very much in the mix for his client." It doesn't hurt that Vancouver assistant general manager Laurence Gilman was with Winnipeg during Doan's days there.
Doan's Kamloops connections open up other possibilities as well. The ownership group is led by Tom Gaglardi, who just happens to also own the Dallas Stars. The Stars also happen to have just signed Doan's Phoenix teammate Ray Whitney to a two-year, $9 million deal.
Former Bruin Mark Recchi is part of the Kamloops ownership group as well, and could try to steer his buddy to Boston. Despite their close ties, which include co-hosting the annual Recchi-Doan Charity Classic, it's unlikely that Doan will venture this far East.
It's more likely that he will remain in the West, but Bross has indicated Doan could be interested in both Detroit and Pittsburgh. Bross also gave Blackhawks fans similar hope, while the Flyers and Rangers have also been reported to be interested.
It's easy to understand why Doan would be in such demand. The Phoenix captain is a rare blend of size (6-foot-1, 223 pounds), skill (11 20-goal seasons, including two 30-goal campaigns) and toughness (205 hits last year), not to mention the leadership and experience he brings to the table after 16 seasons in the league.
Beyond that is the fact that this unique situation offers teams a rare second chance in free agency. Because Doan has waited to field offers in an effort to find some clarity in the Coyotes ownership situation, now teams that missed out on Parise and other big names available have another shot at landing an impact free agent later in the process.
There is some risk though. Doan turns 36 on Oct. 10, but is still seeking a multi-year deal, perhaps as much as four or five years. He just finished a five-year contract with a $4.55 million annual cap hit, and he'll command at least that again. With his physical style of play, there's always the fear of injury or simply a decline in effectiveness with the constant pounding his body has taken. And barring any changes in the next collective bargaining agreement, the teams will be stuck with that cap hit as it will be an over-35 contract.
Still, there are plenty of teams willing to take such a risk. And they're all waiting to see if enough Glendale residents sign the petition to force a referendum because that could lead to one more very important signature — Doan's on a contract with a different NHL franchise for the first time in his career.
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